This week, start here:
Your Dark Matter authors don’t have a particular affinity for advertising awards shows (nor for those who fetishize them), but Faris Yakob’s piece this week on the threads that connect the winning entries in the NEW category at the London International Awards is a brilliant read. This, in particular, stuck with us:

shift your focus away from the outputs and towards the outcomes — each idea is a behavioral system, creating value when the user interacts with the brand.

In a completely-related thread, Saneel Radia gave a brilliant talk in April at the Latvian Art Directors Club — yes, that’s a legit organization, not a Wes Anderson conceit — on the relationship between innovation and the creative process. Both the video of the talk and the attendant slides are absolutely worth your time. We’ve long loved Saneel’s working definition of innovation as ‘the introduction of the relevant new’, and this talk expands upon that idea gracefully.

So what happens when we’re all making things in a connected world? Microsoft and Bassett Partners got together to make a film that (ostensibly) aims to tackle the implications of networked makers. Spoiler alert: trailer includes gratuitous Bre Pettis cameos.

A final note before we switch gears: if you’ve not read Paul Adams’ piece this week on system design (which ties back to each of the above quite nicely, but lacks obligatory MakerBot references) it’s quite worth your time. Essentially, it seeks to answer the question: what are the inherent implications (to designers and product owners) of designing systems, rather than pages or products?


There was a lot of great thinking about user research this week to pore over and circulate, beginning with Leisa Reichelt’s post for the GDS on user research v. user testing, and her wonderful reminder that ‘It’s us being tested, not our users, and that’s a good thing.’ Tom Ewing reworked Martin Weigel’s recent piece on ‘reclaiming planning’s radicalism’ into a treatise of sorts for the market research community. This thought, in particular, was quite prescient:

Research has an awful lot of facts, and an awful lot of data…What research lacks is an understanding of what this data means, and how it affects the lives (of ordinary people).

There’s a lot to glean from Ariane Tulloch’s piece on the PLOS Neuroanthropology blog on adult learning across cultures, but this question/answer is smart context for the bias inherent to a great deal of what we believe to be true about marketplace motivations and interactions:

Q: Who is educated, rich, and used to make sweeping generalizations about human behavior?
A: The college aged students who make up the bulk of psychology study participants.

Speaking of selection bias: these maps of Strava users’ bike and running routes are lovely (and well-shared), but probably tell us more about Strava users than they do about where people bike and run. Right?

Listeners to the Hollywood Prospectus podcast were treated this week to a guest appearance by Chuck Klosterman, who shared some fascinating thoughts on the need to tell stories of the technologies we now live with to a new generation that has never known a world without the Internet. In not-unrelated news: protesting workers this week in Thailand were seen using the Hunger Games salute as a sign of solidarity.

It was Mary Meeker week again. Fortunately, the Percolate blog picked out all of the essential bits from her annual report. Also this week: Noah & James from Percolate have written a brilliant report on the changing workplace and marketplace called Transition. You should download it (and read it). If you just want the choice parts, they’ve also published it in digest post form.

It’s not for the meek, but then again ‘cyberpunk’ tends to self-select: Airship had a great, long piece this week on the new breed of self-hackers known as ‘Grinders’ (be warned: the piece is mildly graphic) — a collection of coders, self-quantifiers and steampunk enthusiasts embedding magnets, RFID tags and circuitry in their bodies. This is not as fringe as you think it is, folks.

On a different note: Chris Bolman thinks that the traditional RFP process for digital marketing and experience work is stifling client and agency innovation. He’s absolutely right, by the way.

Brian Boyer’s piece on the role of the multimedia & visuals team in the NPR newsroom is astonishingly good — and should really be required reading for brands and agencies building newsrooms of their own. This x 100:

We want to be your rhythm section. But that’s not to say we’re not stars. We want to be the best rhythm section. We want to be James Brown’s rhythm section. But we’re not James. We’re gonna kick ass and make you look good, but we still need you to write the songs.


As it turns out, there’s remarkably strong correlation between the popularity of heavy metal music and a country’s wealth and propensity for economic prosperity. Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellander mapped heavy metal album sales to economic indicators around the world, and came to some rather startling conclusions:

At the country-level, the number of heavy metal bands per capita is positively associated with economic output per capita (.71); level of creativity (.71) and entrepreneurship (.66); share of adults that hold college degrees (.68); as well as overall levels of human development (.79), well-being, and satisfaction with life (.60).

This, of course, may explain why Iron Maiden commissioned its own private 757.